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On this date: Kobe Bryant, Lakers annihilate Spurs to start WCF

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After not looking right throughout the 2000-01 regular season, the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers got their groove back as the playoffs opened.

They ended the regular season with an eight-game winning streak, then swept the Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

Kobe Bryant went off in the last two games of the Kings series, scoring 36 and 48 points, respectively.

But as it turned out, he was just getting started.

At the time, people were starting to wonder if the Lakers could be beaten in a best-of-seven. If any team could, it was the San Antonio Spurs, their opponent in the Western Conference Finals.

The Spurs won a league-high 58 games and boasted the NBA’s highest-ranked defense, and they were also the league’s most accurate 3-point shooting team in the regular season.

Most expected a close, very competitive, low-scoring series that would likely go the distance.

But Bryant had other ideas.

After getting off to a modest start in Game 1, he started to get it going late in the first quarter. He attacked the basket, both in transition and in the half-court, and he got plenty of good looks.

L.A. led 51-42 at halftime, but no one had really seen anything yet.

Bryant did even more damage in the third quarter, continuing to attack the basket with a vengeance. Despite the presence of David Robinson and Tim Duncan, Bryant kept getting to the rim and converted multiple highlight dunks.

When the game was over, the Lakers had claimed a 104-90 win and Bryant had delivered 45 points on 19-of-35 shooting, along with 10 rebounds and three assists.

After the game, Bryant got some extremely high praise from a certain teammate who had reportedly wanted him traded during the regular season and felt he was dragging the team down with him.

Yes, Bryant and the Lakers were still just getting started.

List

Lakers player season grades: Anthony Davis